EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers his views about the crucial and key role the pursuit of honesty plays in living a passionate, flourishing, and fulfilling life.
THE CRITICS HEART’S MELT! “Down at the Hartsel Cafe and Salon last Tuesday morning Stella Bailey and Libby Sommer got into it over coffee in a dispute that turned so fierce at times Hartsel’s most famous local celebrity, Ernest the Moosehead, looked about to fall crashing down from his place of honor on the the North wall above the table reserved on Thursdays for the Liar’s Club. I reckon no one in the whole of South Park Colorado honestly needs to be told the subject of the deafening uproar between the two normally soft-spoken and genteel ladies was none other than Mr. Wannabe Blogger, Paul “Fool” Sunstone. The ladies were trying to top each other in who could more objectively describe what an insufferable ass Sunstone is. Libby’s final position was that any one of Sunstone’s blog posts was just about as confused and messy as an elk sucked into a jet aircraft engine firing up on the runway of internet blogging. Stella snapped back that Sunstone’s post, “The Key in the Lock” transcended even a hamburgered elk for a confused mess, and could only be compared to the confused mess the infamous Fairplay Twister had made of Ivor Plumber’s strikingly original racoon-fur toupee. You’ll recall back in ’04, the Fairplay Twister came out of nowhere to inflict 16.4 million dollars of damage and in the process suck Ivor’s toupee right from his head. Suck it from his head in the very midst of one of his traditional Friday night courtships of Jane Basil, right along with a full half of her bodice. Ivor has ever since said, the memory of Jane’s exposed left bosom was the only thing that could ameliorate his profoundly felt sense of loss in the days ahead. Jane has been even more vocal on the subject than Ivor. She maintains that, had the tornado taken her maiden aunt’s hand-me-down chastity belt instead of her bodice, she and Ivor would be right shacked up today. Now back to Libby and Stella. In the coldly objective opinion of this blog critic, not one, but both ladies are right. Right in the sense that Paul Sunstone forever and eternally tops his inner ass with each and every new post of his. Sunstone has never taken so much as a single back-step in his relentless effort to destroy internet blogging once and for all. ‘The Key in the Lock to the Door of Life’ is in no way, shape, or form a back-step. Sunstone, the Contemptable Juggernaut of Confused Fools, ever remains true to his worthless self. Sorrowfully yours, Gunning Gus.” — Gus “Gunning Gus” Johnson, The Blog Critic’s Column, “Leper’s Gulch Gazette”, Leper’s Gulch, Colorado, USA.
(About a 26 minute read)
NOTE TO READERS: In order to perhaps make this long post more accessible, I am adding this up front summary of the themes. The core theme is that self-honesty is key to some very important things in life.
- The introduction submits my opinion that the social order is overall opposed to people being true to themselves, and consequently, self-honesty is devalued.
- Following the introduction, section two is about how failing to be honest with ourselves can lead to major life mistakes,
- section three expresses my opinion that authenticity is impossible without our being honest with ourselves,
- section four expresses my opinion that creativity is crippled without honesty,
- section five states my opinion that passion is corroded and destroyed without honesty,
- section six is the last section and offers a “how-to” technique for being radically honest with oneself.
i. “Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.” ―
As I see it, honesty is the key that unlocks the door of life. The key that allows those who turn it in the lock of lies to open the door to self-flourishing, self-fulfillment, self-realization. Read on if you are curious why I see honesty as the key.
But first, please permit me to honestly tell you how I myself see this post.
It’s a BIG read. Big in most senses of the world. I think some people might find it the best thing they read today. The most personally meaningful read. The most personally insightful read. The most personally useful read. The read they go to bed at the end of the day the most happy to have read.
But it’s also big in the sense of being a long read. And big in the sense of being a read that needs to be read slow enough to genuinely grasp it. I have conscientiously tried to make it as short and accessible as I can — but that might not be short and accessible enough for everyone. And so that’s my honest take on this post. Thank you for your kindness in reading this far, even if no further.
No doubt you have heard the five o’clock news. You should be true to yourself. But did you catch the ten o’clock update? The world does not want you to be true to yourself.
The world — the society you live in — wants you to be true to it. Much more than it wants you to be true to yourself, the world wants you to be true to it.
It wants you to be true to other people, and especially true to the people who have great wealth and/or great power. The people who run things. The rulers.
Whether you yourself have studied it or not, the people who run the world know — know better than you know your lover’s nose — that they would lose everything that makes them the “makers” and you the “takers” if you, and too many other people like you, ever got it into your head to be true to yourself.
“Takers” — that’s the word the great and popular apologist for the world’s rulers, Ayn Rand, contemptuously called you — whenever she wasn’t calling you “moochers”. I suspect the vast majority of Ayn’s follower’s are deluding themselves when they think of themselves as “makers” in Saint Ayn’s eyes.
Nine out of every twelve “truths” the world teaches you are lies designed to convince you that you are being true to yourself when all you are really doing is being a good consumer. A loyal consumer who buys the products and services that he or she believes will give him or her a fuller, more meaningful, and happier life.
They believe it because that’s what they have been told is the path to being true to themselves, the path to authenticity, the path to happiness. “You deserve the best in life. The best that life can offer you. On sale today at selected outlets.”
“Because You’re Worth It: L’Oreal.” “You deserve Virgin Mobile,” “The most original people deserve the most original vodka — Stoli.”
You can buy your way to authenticity. To self-flourishing. To human well-being. To self-realization. To purpose, meaning, and happiness. The human spirit is for sale at over ten zillion convenient locations, including a thousand locations that are right near you. Act now and we’ll throw in the gods for free! Simply pick them up at your local church, synagogue, mosque, or temple.
The world does not want you to be true to yourself. It has other priorities for you.
But I’m not here to encourage you to rise up and overthrow the existing social order. In my view, you couldn’t do that even if you tried. You would be forced to replace it with another one more or less just like it — and whether you want to do that is your business, not mine.
I might be wrong about all I just said. Or I might be right. But wrong or right, if any part of what I just said is false or misleading, I myself don’t honestly see it. Maybe I have told you the truth. Maybe I have told you lies. All I know for certain is that I have told you the truth as I myself honestly see it. Were I to tell you anything other than what I just told you, I would be betraying myself, and I would be lying to you.
Please be careful to avoid taking my view of the world on blind faith.
Trying to agree with me — if you do not see it yourself — is as futile and foolish as trying to convince yourself you lost your virginity in high school the day you read in your biology textbook the chapter on reproduction.
The world wants you to blindly agree with it. I don’t.
I don’t want your agreement. I want your honesty. You will not rise in my eyes even for your honest agreement with me, let alone a false one. But you also will not fall in my eyes for your honest disagreement — only for a false one.
As I see it, honesty is the key that unlocks the door of life. The key that allows those who turn it in the lock of lies to open the door to self-flourishing, self-fulfillment, self-realization. That’s how I myself see it. Please feel free to comment at any time how you yourself see honesty.
The Sections that Follow this Introduction:
- The Importance of Honesty to Self-Improvement
- The Importance of Honesty to Living Authentically
- The Importance of Honesty to Creativity
- The Importance of Honesty to living Passionately
- The Single Most Powerful Technique for Being Honest
ii. “Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ―
Try thinking of yourself as a map-maker, a cartographer. You cannot underestimate the importance that you do a good job creating and/or choosing the maps you use to guide you through your life. Do a good job at making/picking out the maps you use. Do your very best job.
So far as I can see, nearly every major mistake people make in their lives can be in one way or another traced back to their relying on inadequate, misleading, or false maps.
The world will tell you that to become the person you want to be, you must possess a strong and indomitable will. There is some truth in that, just like there is some nutrition in junk food.
Willing to change into the person you want to be somewhat works. But it’s expensive. It costs a lot in time and effort. And it is infamous for backsliding. There’s a better way.
So how do you best change yourself — and in changing yourself, change your life? You make maps. Or you wisely choose between the maps other people have made and offered to you. For convenience, we will just call it “map making” here.
Make maps of yourself and the world to change yourself! But know there’s a catch. They must be honest maps. It does not work if you are able on any level to significantly doubt that they are true and accurate maps.
I do not know for sure if humans have a hunger inside them for truth, but I strongly suspect that is a myth. Just some mindless cliché that has been passed down from one foolish generation to the next. To me, we do not seek the truth — Yet, there is something in us that will not follow a map we are capable of doubting.
You can use maps to change everything about you that can actually be changed, but only if the maps are honest maps.
Creating honest maps can even bring about your renewal, your rebirth. They can even bring about the frequent renewal and rebirth that keeps you passionate about living. The rebirth that Bob Dylan pointed out the absolute necessity of when he sang, “he not busy being born is busy dying”.
The world tells you, “Time heals all wounds”. There is some truth in that. But the greater healer, the greater source of human resilience, is changing maps.
So what are “maps”?
Maps are the ideas, concepts, notions, beliefs, etc. that you have about reality — both the reality of yourself, and the reality of the world. The active ideas, not the idle ones, not the fantasies. Maps can be made of truths, lies, half-truths, etc. But you will follow only those you believe cannot be significantly doubted.
The more honest your maps, the more authentic, the more true to yourself, you will be. The closer you can come to reality when thinking about reality, the more authentic you will be.
iii. “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” —
There is no authenticity without the fullest possible acceptance of those parts of you that you are powerless to change. The powers within us that we cannot change, we must accept. The powers within us that we deny do not wither and die. They become our demons.
Suppose you happen to have within you something the world regards as heinous. Let’s say, you discover in yourself a desire to rape people, or a desire to be raped. A deeply felt desire or a deeply felt fear is a power within you.
Shamefully deny your desire to rape or be raped at your mortal, spiritual risk. Deny it, and it will only manifest itself in whatever ways you are not keeping under constant and unfailing watch and guard.
Your demons know the cracks in you like weeds know the cracks in a sidewalk, the cracks through which they will twist through to flourish and bloom. Your demons know the cracks in you better than you do. You’d be a fool to think you don’t have cracks.
Authenticity — being true to yourself — begins with the fullest possible acceptance of the parts of you that you cannot change. In turn, the acceptance of those parts of you that you cannot change begins with honesty.
I myself am willing to deny only those parts of me that are socially or environmentally irresponsible. “Irresponsible” is my pet word for what most of us call “wrong”. Whether you call it irresponsible or wrong, it is up to you to decide what limits you will impose on your authenticity. That is, it is up to you to decide in what ways you will be untrue to yourself.
To be authentic, to be true to yourself, you must know yourself. You will never fully know yourself — there’s just too much of you to know everything — but I believe the two most crucial things you should know about yourself are your talents and your values.
Your talents are your genetically based predispositions to acquiring a set of skills. Does singing come easier to you than running? If so, then you have more of a talent for singing than you do for running. Does math come easier to you than social graces? If so, you have a talent for math. Look to see what comes most easy to you. What comes most easy of all are your greatest talents.
To your greatest talents you must be true if you wish to flourish in life. That is, if you wish to achieve eudaimonia — self-flourishing or well-being. And that goes for your values just as well. You must be true to your values if you wish to achieve eudaimonia.
Treat your values like you would your talents. The world tells you must learn its values. Scorn that advice! That advice will lead you into self-betrayal and spiritual death. Instead of trying to adopt the world’s values, look within to see your own values.
If you then find your values at odds with the world’s, make what compromises you will or must. But don’t look to adopt the world’s values and deny your own, unless you want demons. Compromise on how you express your own values, but don’t adopt the world’s values as if you could somehow truly make them your own values.
Authenticity depends on being honest with yourself. You cannot be authentic, you cannot be true to yourself, unless you are honest with yourself.
iv. “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” — Pablo Picasso
Honesty is a key to creativity. It is not the only key, but it is a vital one.
I think some of the most interesting and beautiful people I have met in my life are clichés. Clichés in Oscar Wilde’s sense of the word. I have met — and nearly every day still meet — people who are notable for being kind, intelligent, humorous, strong, generous, loving, and so forth, but who are not authentic, not true to themselves. And I so very often like or even truly love those people.
Boiled down to its purest essence, there is only one thing wrong with being a cliché — and that thing has absolutely nothing to do with your worth or value as a human.
Boiled down, the problem is you almost always feel you are not fully living, feel like you are not fully awake and alive to your own life. Basically, you don’t feel eudaimonious. You feel your life is missing something. Maybe something you haven’t yet fully identified, but have a vague notion it might be that you’re not flourishing.
Some people call that feeling “nostalgia for their childhood days” — the days when life was like a sunny spring morning around ten o’clock and they were playing with their best friend building castles together in their sandbox without a worry in their world.
I believe the road of being true to yourself, the authentic road of life, is the road that leads to a much more mature — but still childlike — “childhood”. That is, a rebirth. A second (or third or fourth or fifth, etc.) of our love for life. It seems to me, that road is paved with the rock hard, but precious, bricks of authenticity.
As I see it, the only real problem with being a cliché is you’re not on that road, and until you do get on it, you have little chance, if any chance at all, of being reborn into your own life again.
But those bricks are hard. They daunt so many of us. And no one can rightfully stand in condemning judgment of those who are daunted by those bricks. No one. No one has your right to chose for you whether or not — or to what extent — you will be true to yourself.
Sometimes I think it likely that the most humane, the most humanly decent, person alive today is some cliché living in one of the world’s big, faceless cities, happy (I hope) with their nondescript job, and their quiet circle of friends and lovers. Only thing missing is they don’t feel truly alive.
And I’m probably right about that. Some of the most authentic people in history have been the biggest jerks in history. I have a friend, Jay, who lives in the Chicago area. I love Jay — he’s as honest as can be with everyone, and he’s just as authentic as he is honest. But Jay is one of the most abrasive people I’ve known — short of a few immoral types.
Living authentically can be harder than hell — both on you and those around you. It doesn’t always have to be that way, but it can be. Yet living authentically is a necessary thing to do if you don’t want to be mostly a cliché, a mimic, a quotation of other people.
All of us are quotations to one extent or another, but to be even in only a few limited ways less than mostly a quotation, I think you must live true to yourself. And living true to yourself requires — demands — being honest with yourself.
To avoid being a cliché, follow the advice in the final section of this blog post to dig down inside you until you have dug down below the layers of you that are the stuff you mimic. The layers of everything that you have in your life you assumed to be true — but never really checked to see if you honestly believed it was true.
Dig down below those layers. Often you will still find things that originated with other people. Quite often, in fact, that’s what you will find. “Be true to yourself” is something I got from the Buddha, Shakespeare, my mother, and a thousand other sources. It is far from original to me. But it also expresses to me truths that I honestly cannot doubt are truths. Most of what you find even at the deepest layers will not have originated with you.
Still, it is only at those deepest layers that you have a half-way decent chance of finding truly creative insights into new ways to be yourself.
If you are determined to be the artist of your own life to any significant extent at all, start with honesty.
v. “Dishonesty at first corrodes, and then destroys, passion.” — The Author of this Blog Post
You have seen small children playing, so you most likely know on one level or another that humans are born to live passionate lives. At least, for awhile.
The smallest children live their lives the most passionately. They have few, if any, enthusiasms — for mere enthusiasms are not passions. But enthusiasms will come soon enough to them. Will come to replace, to crowd out, most or all of their passion for living their lives.
There are several profound and seldom discussed differences between passion and enthusiasm.
The biggest difference is this one: Passion comes from within you. Enthusiasm is your response, your reaction, to something outside of you.
The truest, most passionate lives — if there are any — are passionate about almost everything. Perhaps only the smallest children and the greatest sages live such lives. They passionately feel their pleasures, and they passionately feel their pains. They passionately embrace somethings, and they passionately recoil from somethings. Whatever they do, they feel alive. They feel awake.
In sharp contrast, most of us travel most of our lives with more enthusiasm than passion for them. Assuming we even have that much — mere enthusiasm — for our lives.
The consequences of living enthusiastically are pathetic to behold.
The world wants you to be more enthusiastic about your life than passionate about it, but you would be a fool to take its advice. Life for an enthusiastic man or woman is life lived only for the peaks. To the extent such a person feels alive at all, they feel alive only during their peak moments. Those moments are like mountain ranges: Most of the peaks are far apart and distant from each other. The most enthusiastic people are earth cannot crowd enough mountains together to even come close to how a small child or childlike sage feels his or her life.
“You only go around once in life, you’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can. Schlitz. The beer with gusto.”
Enthusiastic people all too often feel little or no passion. So they turn outward, towards the world, hoping to find in the world something that will make them feel their lives intensely. Something that will substitute for feeling their lives passionately.
That can be anything that might even remotely be considered emotionally moving. Anything from reading a poem to climbing a mountain without belaying ropes. But take a close look at what they are doing. They are substituting enthusiasm’s external stimuli for passion’s internal furnace. In the absence of that furnace, they feel cold, feel cold as no passionate person ever does, even to the point of sometimes feeling their lives have become frozen wastes.
How you can live a passionate life — and not a merely enthusiastic one — is too big of a topic to be fully discussed here, and I have now and then discussed it elsewhere. Here, I can only tell you that honesty is vital to unlocking the door to living passionately. It is not the only thing that’s needed. Not by far the only thing. But without honesty, you will not have enough of a key to unlock the door — even if you have in your life all the rest that goes into the making of the key.
Honesty is a necessary component of living a passionate life.
vi. “You can’t lie to your soul.” ―
A society that wanted its people to be true to themselves would be begin by teaching its children how to be true to themselves.
There is a sense in which children have a need to uncritically swallow whatever their elders feed them. Evolution has taught children it’s safer for children to believe than to disbelieve what their elders tell them is true or is false. There is no time for a child to question his or her mother when their mother tells them not play with the poisonous snake they have found.
Yet a society that wanted its people to be true to themselves would still begin by teaching its children all they could honestly learn about being true to themselves at the ages when they could first learn it. And at some age, they would teach them about the handsome prince and the pretty princess.
“Gather around, children, and tell me if you have heard that deep down inside you is a fortress tower, and in that tower there is waiting for you to find him or her, a handsome prince or a beautiful princes who wants to be your true friend?
“It’s true! You can find that tower and meet your handsome prince or pretty princes anytime you want to — you only need to know which road to take to get to it. But beware! Be very careful when you are traveling that road, for there are highwaymen and much worse than highwaymen who hide in the forests beside the road and prey upon travelers who do not keep a sharp enough lookout for them.
“Some of the names for the bad people and things who wait to prey on unwary travelers — some of their names are Hope, Judgment, Fear, Desire, and Lies.”
A society that wanted its people to be true to themselves would tell the same story to people through-out their lives. The same story, but at each age it would change the details a bit to make it more accessible and easier to understand for people of that age.
“Hi and welcome everybody! I’m Sharon and I will be facilitating our discussion group on ‘Seeking the Honest Truth That is Hidden Inside of You’ this evening. Is everyone ready to begin? My God! Who has been smoking weed? I smell weed!”
There’s one in every crowd, you know. I mean in every crowd there’s at least one insufferable person who cannot write a blog post — no matter how serious the subject, no matter how important the subject — without a lame joke or two. They’re shameless people, I tell you, shameless and I know for a fact the fools even dare to hope their very last words on this earth are no more serious and heavier than a shamelessly lame joke!
But back to the proper point: Anyone who would be true to themselves so that they can best enjoy a happy, creative, passionate, fulfilling life must know how to find the truths — the honest truths — inside of them. It’s actually easy to do! Sometimes it causes a little emotional pain, but that pain always fades away soon enough after you have found and accepted what you have found.
Here’s all you really must do to find the honest truth inside of you — the truth that you yourself cannot doubt. At least, you cannot doubt it at the moment you that you find it.
Maybe later, you will learn something about yourself or about the world that allows you to doubt it. The honest truth is not the real truth — it’s just the only truth — the only truth that you yourself can truly believe. The truth you cannot genuinely lie to yourself to say, “I don’t believe you.”
Begin with a truth — an alleged truth. Pick any one of the many things you think or have been told are true. It helps a lot if you feel strongly about it. If you really like it or really dislike it. That gives you extra energy to do the job of discovering if it’s an honest truth.
Begin with a truth, then childlike question it. “Do I really think and feel you are true?”
Do you really think and feel that it is true love lasts forever? If the answer is an honest “yes”, then your job is done. You can go on to the next truth now, or you can go do something else — whatever you choose. But you’re done with that one. At least for now, your done with it.
But if the answer is “no”, then you dig a little deeper by asking the “whys” or the “hows” of exactly why or how you can doubt that truth is true. For instance: “Does love last forever? I can doubt it does because I have seen people who I was sure once loved each other quit loving each other. So now the question becomes, ‘Can I doubt that love doesn’t always last forever?’.” Keep asking, keep digging, until you find your honest truth.
That’s about as complex as it really gets. You can teach it to children. It’s then up to them to decide whether or not to do it, but the technique is so simple you can teach it even to children. And as they get older, you can begin to teach them how it will change things for them if and when they get into the habit of doing it.
All of the above, from start to finish, is the truth as I see it. If you are a child reading this, then take my advice and trust me that what I have told you is the real truth. Trust me for now — but trust me only until it becomes time for you to see if what I have told you is the honest truth. Your honest truth.
If you are an adult reading this, then I offer for your own consideration the only truths I can genuinely and authentically offer you on this subject. Perhaps I have told you right. Perhaps I have told you wrong. That’s not for me to decide. The real truth is not my responsibility, and I would be lying to say I know for certain that I have found it for you.
Take these my honest truths and make of them what you will. They are yours now. Use them or discard them as you see fit.
And whichever one of you it is that has been smoking it from the very start of all of this, please, for the sake of the gods, pass the weed!